Bladder Stones – A Common Cause of Urination DifficultiesNov 13, 2023
The urine that a body produces collects in the urinary bladder and when that organ is full, the need to pass the urine is felt. Urine contains various minerals that the body does not need and if the bladder does not empty completely, some urine will remain in it. When the urine remains for too long, some of the minerals may get deposited in the bladder and lead to the formation of hardened lumps called bladder stones. Minute stones are often not noticed and pass out with the urine. However, if the stones become larger, they can cause major problems such as extreme pain when passing urine, blood in the urine, nausea, stomach cramps and more. These are problems that must not be ignored and require immediate treatment. Bladder stones are also called bladder calculi. While bladder stones are most common among men over 50, the condition can affect anyone, including women, at any age. The problem is very rare among children.
There are several causes for the formation of bladder stones. Among the most common are:
- Prostate Enlargement: The prostate gland in men often becomes larger with increasing age. In some cases, the enlargement can cause a partial blockage of the urethra (the tube through which urine moves out of the bladder). This may cause incomplete emptying of the bladder resulting in the formation of stones.
- Dehydration: Not drinking enough water and other healthy fluids can lead to insufficient urine formation and the development of stones.
- Bladder Diverticula: Diverticula are cave-like cavities that develop inside hollow organs like the urinary bladder. Urine can collect in these cavities and not be passed out of the body.
- Cystocele: After childbirth, the ligaments and muscles that support the bladder in women may become stretched or weak and as a result, the bladder could drop into the vagina, leading to a restriction in the flow of urine.
- Side-Effects of Surgery: It is possible that some surgical procedures like bladder augmentation could result in restrictions in urine flow leading to the increased possibility of stone formation.
- Neurogenic Bladder: If there is nerve damage due to a stroke, spinal cord injury, congenital abnormality such as spina bifida, or due to any other condition that may affect the functioning of the bladder, the possibility of stone formation increases.
- Kidney Stones: Stones that develop in the kidneys may travel to the bladder.
It should be noted that bladder stones are not contagious and cannot be transmitted through sexual intercourse.
A urologist will review the patient’s medical history, enquire about the symptoms, do a physical examination and order various tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may include:
- A Urine Test: A urine sample is examined in the laboratory for signs of stone formation.
- Imaging Tests: CT scans, ultrasounds and x-rays may be done to provide a clear picture of the size and exact location of any bladder stones.
- Cystoscopy: A long flexible tube with a tiny camera at the end is passed through the urethra to provide real-time images of the interior of the bladder.
The course of treatment for bladder stones will be decided by the urologist. That said, the 2 most common courses of action are:
- Cystolitholapaxy: This is a minimally invasive procedure during which a cystoscope is inserted through the urethra to locate the stone after which a laser or high-frequency sound waves are used to shatter the stone into minute fragments. Special fluids are then used to flush the debris from the bladder.
- Surgery: If cystolitholapaxy is not a viable option, surgery may be required to remove the stone. The urologist will make an incision in the abdomen to reach the bladder and then make another incision there to remove the stone. If the stone has developed due to an enlarged prostate, the surgeon may also remove the prostate tissue that is causing the obstruction to urine flow.
Once the stones are out of the body, the recovery process will depend on the overall health of the patient and other medical factors. A patient may be asked to stay in the hospital for a day after the procedure to ensure that there is no residual discomfort. When the patient returns home, he or she will be advised to rest for a period determined by the doctor after which normal activities may resume. Depending on the specifics of the case, medication may be prescribed for a limited time.
There is no certain way of preventing the formation of bladder stones. However, drinking plenty of water helps in prevention as it dilutes the urine and therefore mineral formation by clumping together is less likely. Avoiding certain foods can also help reduce the risk of stone formation. Your healthcare provider will be able to give you more information on this.
If you have symptoms of bladder stones, you must visit a urologist immediately. The best urologists can be found in the urology department of a leading multispecialty hospital. This is also where the most advanced treatment options will be available so that a patient can be sure of both the best treatment and care which will ensure a comfortable and rapid recovery.
Regular checkups, especially for men over the age of 50, at a specialized urology department, will detect various issues that could contribute to the development of bladder stones and early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the formation of stones and other urological ailments.
Bladder stones should never be ignored and trying home remedies is dangerous as the condition will often worsen. Contact a urologist without delay if you have any symptoms of bladder stones. If the onset of severe pain or other symptoms is sudden, go to an emergency medicine department immediately.
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